Blog Tags: Gulf Of Mexico
On my second attempt to spot whale sharks yesterday, I flew with the effervescent Bonny Schumaker, whose organization On Wings of Care helps protect wildlife and their habitats by helping with search, rescue, rehabilitation and scientific research. Samantha Whitcraft of the non-profit Oceanic Defense also joined us for the flight. We took off from New Orleans and flew about 50 miles south over the Gulf.
Bonny and her 4-seater plane, whom she lovingly refers to as “Bessie,” have years of experience spotting wildlife. Unfortunately, despite Bonny and Bessie’s best efforts, the conditions yesterday were simply not ideal for finding marine life. Choppy waters and white caps made it a challenge to see much of anything besides oil rigs, oil boom and barrier islands:
By Oceana's Gulf Expedition Leader, Xavier Pastor
As you know, we’re in the midst of an eight-week expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. We wanted to tell you about our ship, the Oceana Latitude.
The Latitude is an impressive vessel that has been used by its owner for fishing on the high seas. It is a nice cruise boat that we have turned into a research vessel to support our scientific expedition to find out more about the effects of the oil spill. We thank the owner greatly, who has given us the boat at cost to make our work possible in the Gulf. It made the Latitude the cheapest boat available for our two-month expedition.
Here are some other facts about our boat:
From Reuters UK today: The oil spill poses a large threat to the Kemp's Ridley population which makes its home in the Gulf. "This is a major blow to that population," said Todd Steiner, executive director of the California-based Turtle Restoration Project, said. "Here you have a situation where the adults, hatchlings and juveniles are all in the Gulf."
From Reuters UK today:
The oil spill poses a large threat to the Kemp's Ridley population which makes its home in the Gulf.
"This is a major blow to that population," said Todd Steiner, executive director of the California-based Turtle Restoration Project, said. "Here you have a situation where the adults, hatchlings and juveniles are all in the Gulf."
From CNN.com today:
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill may have settled to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico further east than previously suspected and at levels toxic to marine life, researchers reported Monday.
Initial findings from a new survey of the Gulf conclude that dispersants may have sent the oil to the ocean floor, where it has turned up at the bottom of an undersea canyon within 40 miles of the Florida Panhandle. Plankton and other organisms showed a "strong toxic response" to the crude, according to researchers from the University of South Florida.
"The dispersant is moving the oil down out of the surface and into the deeper waters, where it can affect phytoplankton and other marine life," said John Paul, a marine microbiologist at USF.
Your daily expedition update from Oceana senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor:
The Oceana crew set off for their first dive operation at the Western Dry Rocks off the coast of Key West yesterday morning.
The diving conditions at this first location were far from ideal. Recent storms stirred up the water with sand and mud, leaving the divers with limited visibility of only three to nine feet. Support diver Soledad Esnaola described it as “like diving in milk.” The site was approximately 50 feet deep and a majority of the coral was covered in sediment. Despite the poor conditions, underwater videographer Enrique Talledo spotted a six-foot green moray eel.
The second dive took place at the Western Sambo Reef, which offered much better visibility of approximately 25 feet. After diving in many different environments all around the world, Oceana’s divers found the reefs to be mostly dead or dying, with little biodiversity, very few fish and no invertebrate life. It was far from what they expected to see on a Caribbean reef. They did catch sight of a 10-inch yellow stingray, a three-foot wide brain coral boulder, grey angel fish, yellowtail snapper, small sea fans and wrasse, small cigar shaped fish.
Imagine a healthy, beautiful ocean. Now remove the sea turtles, one by one.
Not so healthy anymore, is it?
That’s the gist of the report we released today, Why Healthy Oceans Need Sea Turtles: The Importance of Sea Turtles to Marine Ecosystems. The report describes the vital roles sea turtles play in the ecosystem, and how the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is further threatening their ability to fulfill those roles.
As the report outlines, sea turtles provide the following important ecosystem services:
- Maintain healthy seagrass beds through grazing
- Maintain healthy coral reefs by removing sponges when foraging
- Facilitate nutrient cycling by supplying a concentrated source of high-protein nutrients when nesting
- Balance marine food webs by maintaining jellyfish populations
- Provide a food source for fish by carrying around barnacles, algae and other similar organisms
- Increase the rate of nutrient recycling on the ocean floor by breaking up shells while foraging
- Provide habitat for small marine organisms as well as offer an oasis for fish and seabirds in the open ocean
Today Oceana and NRDC, in collaboration with Mote Marine Laboratory, are launching an oil-detecting underwater robot off the Florida Keys as a first line of defense against underwater oil plumes from the Gulf oil spill.
For 25 to 30 days, the robot, a.k.a.Waldo, will travel undersea in the water column, an area that satellite imagery cannot access, gathering data every few seconds and transmitting the information to researchers via satellite every three hours.
If oil is detected, Mote Marine Laboratory will provide the local government with this information so that emergency resources and response plans can be activated to help protect the Keys’ important ecological resources.
You can check out Waldo’s location and data throughout his expedition at Rutgers University’s web site.
From NBC yesterday:
"My first impression is the vastness of the problem," [Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie] Mughelli said [during a recent trip to the Gulf with other professional and Olympic athletes]. "It doesn't look small on TV by any means, but it seems like you can contain it ... and that's not the case at all. Especially when you come out here and look at it and see the oil on the Gulf and see the marsh being eroded and see the birds with black underbellies, you realize it's a lot worse than you think it is."
In a civic center in St. Bernard Parish last night, BP and government agencies working on the oil spill set up folding chairs and posterboards describing their work in a kind of high school science fair approach to meeting the public. There was NOAA, setting up vials of simulated dispersed oil like a flight of wine; there was the Coast Guard captain in charge of the recovery, Roger Laferriere, giving a heartfelt speech about his dedication to Louisiana with the earnest aplomb of a student body president.
But while the attendees were dominated by a scrum of reporters and camera crews, there were a few hopeful locals mostly interested in meeting one man: Kurt A. Hansen, a project manager with the Coast Guard standing between a table and a sign plainly marked "Alternative Response Technology."
Hansen's job is to take ideas from the public about the fixing the oil spill. He has the inscrutable expression of a man who’s heard it all.
When I approached his table, Hansen was listening patiently to a man complaining that he’d been ignored by BP for weeks.
Oceana board member and renowned fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly spoke to OnEarth magazine about the gulf oil spill’s effect on marine life and fisheries.
“We cannot really grasp the measure of this accident because we don’t know if we are at the beginning, the middle or near the end of it,” he says.
Watch the video for more from Pauly.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
- Oceana Magazine: Tuna in Trouble Posted Mon, August 25, 2014
- CITES Listing Countdown: Less Than Three Weeks until Porbeagle Sharks are Protected Posted Wed, August 27, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: 20 Coral Species to Gain Federal Protection, Shell Files New Plan for Arctic Drilling, and More Posted Fri, August 29, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Maine’s Scallop Fishery Could See Closures, Sydney Harbor Littered with Microplastics, and More Posted Tue, August 26, 2014
- Photos: Oceana in Belize Exposes Belizean Youth to the Wonder of the Sea Posted Wed, August 27, 2014